Ainsworth: Workforce development ‘number one crisis facing our state from the business standpoint’
MONTGOMERY — Speaking Tuesday morning to a group of industry leaders assembled at the Business Council of Alabama, Lt. Governor Will Ainsworth (R-AL) explained that he is helping lead the charge on workforce development in the state.
Ainsworth identified getting Alabama students qualified and ready to fill good, high-paying jobs as a passion of his and a primary policy priority for his office.
“I think the number one crisis facing our state from the business standpoint is workforce development,” he advised.
The lieutenant governor then outlined why the issue is so important.
“When I talk to businesses all over the state, it doesn’t matter where I was when I was traveling campaigning, the common theme I heard was, ‘Will, the number one factor limiting growth is people.’ And I think that’s such a shame because we have a lot of great people. It didn’t matter whether I was in Scottsboro talking to a car dealer who needed an auto tech there or if I was in Boaz, Alabama, talking to Pinnacle Manufacturing… [who] need more welders and painters,” Ainsworth said.
He reiterated, using the example of Pinnacle, that companies not being able to hire the number of skilled workers they need is prohibiting growth of 20-30 percent in many cases.
Ainsworth and his office are already hard at work doing everything they can to help bridge the skills gap.
“We’re working with the governor and … [the governor’s education policy advisor] Nick Moore, the two-year college system, k-12 and then we need the business community to step up to the plate on this and let’s solve this problem. Because here’s our vision on workforce development: our state should be the workforce development capital of the southeast,” Ainsworth emphasized.
He outlined that the goal can be met with the right initiatives in place, naming “Project Graduation” in Marshall County as something that is working on a smaller scale, because Alabama “has great people.”
“Taking that model, and the premise behind it is this — everyone has a God-given ability and a skillset that they can use. We need to figure out what that is,” Ainsworth said.
The Marshall County program centers on mentoring, but Ainsworth stressed that statewide workforce development efforts also need to efficiently utilize technology.
“One of the things we want to do – and a part of what Nick Moore is working on – is developing an app that will list all the jobs within a 60-mile radius of where a student lives,” he explained. “Because here’s what we found out: the same kids that need pre-k because their parents aren’t doing the job they need to do, guess what? Those same parents aren’t telling them about the job opportunities that are out there. So, kids really do not understand what jobs are out there, the education level needed, the skill set needed and the training needed – what these jobs pay. Part of what we need to do is educate people about what opportunities are out there, [ask] what are you passionate about, what do you want to do with your life and let’s get people ready for the workforce.”
“Our office is going to take a big lead on that… but we need the entire business community united to make sure we solve this problem for our state,” Ainsworth added.
Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn